For much of my post-college life, I felt I was stuck with the sort of person I turned out to be. As a student, as a wife and friend and daughter. I’m not entirely sure why I thought that way, only that I’ve begun to realize as I’ve started a new phase in my life, that of motherhood and staying at home, that I have the opportunity to change that.
More truthfully, it’s because I’ve felt God asking me to take up a new banner now that my family has expanded. I don’t have to find my identity in my grades or in others’ expectations of me (the erroneousness of this way of thinking is the subject of another post entirely), and nor do I have to look about me at what other stay at home moms are doing and take those identities onto myself either. My identity is in Christ, and he is asking me to build my family and my home around a new calling.
Rather than being a student, a mediocre cook, hard-working, bookish, a little geeky, and a wife who finds herself too often on the defensive thanks to years of conditioning with brothers, my new role in our family as a stay at home wife and mother sets before me several new goals.
I was afraid of this transition. I feared I would miss too deeply my work and the interactions I had there. Granted, I’m only 4.5 months into this new life, so the time may well come when I DO feel burnt out and wish I could go back to working with adults instead. But for now, I feel contentment in the place where God has positioned me, and receptive in the quiet moments I’ve gotten since Lucy learned how to nap to what God is asking me to do with my home.
I believe God uses the family unit to impact his kingdom in far more ways than people realize. And I believe that regardless of working or SAHM status, wives/mothers set the tone of that family. While the Proverbs 31 woman may have a standard which is difficult to achieve, (and people constantly bringing her up get on my nerves, so my apologies) and some scholars believe it was written as a celebratory song for weddings and such rather than as an admonish for womanly behavior, nevertheless, she resides at the end of the Proverbs–a book one looks to for wisdom on how to live–as a contrast to the many “fathers teaching sons” statements in the beginning of the book. Not as a “here you go, ladies, here’s your piece at the very end,” but as a praiseworthy example of the kind of woman who runs a household and knows what she is able to, and should, contribute to it. The one part that many women like to quote is “she is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs without fear of the future” in verse 25.
Strength. Dignity. Something you don’t see as much of as you might like in women of fame and influence. Radical feminists fighting to get their way without a whole lot of dignity in their methods. But I digress. Strength and dignity are a great place to start when looking at what kind of woman God is asking you to be.
My own personal mission
But the word that keeps resonating in my head when I think about my family’s mission and banner is “peace.” This struck me to the heart the first time I thought on it. I’m not naturally a woman of peace. I mean, I’m not a woman of war. I don’t stir up fights. I generally like to keep the peace among friends and family and avoid drama. But avoiding drama is not the same thing as pursuing peace. And I could definitely be accused of rising to defend myself in disagreements with my husband. Usually with gusto. Furthermore, my mind is not always at peace. I’m more inclined toward anxiety and fear. I most definitely have a temper.
But it is so like God to choose for me a purpose which is contrary to my sinful nature. To leave off my anxiousness and commit to trust is difficult. To keep my mouth shut in the face of injustice toward myself… nobody likes doing that. But we are called to peace: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:6). “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Col 3:15). Peace which transcends will guard our hearts (Phil 4:7); we are to cast anxieties on him (1 Peter 5:7); we are to “turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
What does this mean for me practically?
I believe that this pursuit of peace has many aspects to it. Notably, it means raising my children in an environment of peace, and not of anxiety and rush. It means building up my husband in his own calling as co-influencer over our home, and his purpose outside of it. It means leaving aside fears or mistrust from the past and seeking joy. It means not allowing envy or comparison (such as one gets scrolling through social media) to set expectations or the way I view myself. It means opening my home as a place of comfort and welcome to those who enter. It means pursuing godly relationships with those in community with me. It means serving the church. It means making sure my family’s way of life is a light directing others to God. It means controlling my temper. It means daily receiving and living in grace.
There may come a time when I don’t have quiet moments for reflection and Bible study. When I have three or four children and my days are filled with small people needing me constantly and things to do and errands to run and I’ll forget my banner and my mission. But that is why I hoped to write it today. To give myself a written purpose; a family manifesto, that I can look back on in my lifetime pursuit of peace. And for those near to me to point it out (gently, kindly I hope) when they feel not peace upon entering my home, but something contrary.
But I hope, too, that by writing, I might inspire other women to realize that they can always start again; they can follow Christ’s lead into a mission of their own. Whether single or married, with children or without, this is the chance for us as women to pursue wisdom in the way we lead our families, or our sphere of influence, into a personal and a collective life lived to the glory of God. But above all, that there is grace. Grace in the failing every day, grace years from know when we look back and see that our plans have failed, and grace to take up the banner again a thousand times after a thousand failings, with God’s hand in our lives and callings.